Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Good Things #3/366: Jack is learning to pedal.

Riding a bike is something most of us expect our kids to do. Often, when expectant couples are dreaming of the future with their new child, amid images of playing football, ballet, school concerts and playing in the backyard, are those of kids on their bikes, tearing around the neighborhood with their besties.

For the parents of children with Cerebral Palsy this is often a dream which is one of the many crushed by the harsh reality of spasticity, dystonia and imbalance. But it's not impossible. Like most things for people with Cerebral Palsy, a lot can be achieved with patience and perseverance (and philanthropy - thought I'd throw that in!)

A few months ago I wrote of the joy of receiving Jack's Body Cycle. We try to get him on his bike at least every couple of days, riding around the neighborhood with my husband pushing and steering from behind, sometimes with the two dogs in tow, saying hello to neighbors.

Sometimes they go around the block, sometimes onto the football oval to give the dogs a run, and once or twice on the big ride to the library and back. It loosens his knees and hips, with the result that his walking, if he's not exhausting from the ride, is often much better when he gets back.

When we learn to ride a bike it's most often balance which kids have difficulty mastering, so we add training wheels until they develop their confidence and skill. For Jack, the balance is taken care of as his bike is actually a tricycle, and he is strapped in with a very sturdy and significant belt around his chest. It's the more elementary act of pedalling which has so far eluded Jack.

The act of pedalling requires so much more than the average person would think of. It requires a coordination of strength, alternating and controlled balance and appropriate tone throughout the legs (alternating for the 'down' and 'up' motions) to drive the pedals. All of these are an issue for Jack.

Gradually he is getting there. And today was his best effort yet. On a very gentle downward incline, Jack managed to pedal independently on his bike for several minutes. For us, his parents, it was a fantastic achievement. For him, it was just another bike ride as he seems much more focussed on everything about him as he casually makes his way down the street.

So this was a very Good Thing. With many more to come.

Note: I am by no means a physio or doctor. The interpretation of what physically enables pedalling is my own take on what I have learnt. Don't quote me. Also, please don't ring Child Services because Jack is riding on the road. He was in a cul-de-sac where there are few cars at that time (okay, yes, there were a couple. Don't tell anyone.).

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